Curiously, my first impulse was to turn around and walk out without saying hello to him. There is much to be explored in this hesitation, I believe, for it seems to suggest that I already understood that I would do well to keep my distance from Born, that allowing myself to get involved with him could possibly lead to trouble. How did I know this? I had spent little more than an hour in his company, but even in that short time I had sensed there was something off about him, something vaguely repellent. That wasn’t to deny his other qualities— his charm, his intelligence, his humor— but underneath it all he had emanated a darkness and a cynicism that had thrown me off balance, had left me feeling that he wasn’t a man who could be trusted. Would I have formed a different impression of him if I hadn’t despised his politics? Impossible to say. My father and I disagreed on nearly every political issue of the moment, but that didn’t prevent me from thinking he was fundamentally a good person— or at least not a bad person. But Born wasn’t good. He was witty and eccentric and unpredictable, but to contend that war is the purest expression of the human soul automatically excludes you from the realm of goodness. And if he had spoken those words in jest, as a way of challenging yet another anti- militaristic student to fight back and denounce his position, then he was simply perverse.
Excerpted from Invisible by Paul Auster. Copyright © 2009 by Paul Auster. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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